The salty tang of lemon pepper and oil laced the air as I stepped from my car. The parking lot was mostly full. A cluster of tan uniforms milled around the open doors of a minivan to the left, and a young man with headphones sat in front of a cream-and-blue sign that read Our Lady of Peace.
I headed toward a set of white double-doors. An older black man joined me. “Must be in the gym,” he said.
“Must be,” I replied and held the door open for him. “Just follow the smell.”
It was Friday, and it was fish fry night at the Catholic church.
Recently I’ve been thinking about what governs my actions. The fish fry I attended, it turns out, was part of the Catholic tradition of Lent, where they fast something for 40 days. (I need to attend the next fish fry and ask how fish is tied in.) Jews have similar practices, with feasts, times of remembrance, things they can or cannot eat, etc. It can easily slip into empty tradition, of course, but I started to think about my own Protestant, legalism-free life. What governs my actions?
I think I can boil it down to this: I make decisions based on if it will make me sin. Eat this cookie? Sure, why not. Read that book? It probably won’t make me sin, so sure. Watch that movie? Eh, it has a few bad scenes that might make me lust, so I’ll skip it. But what about how I interact with my roommates? Or whether or not I give to the homeless man on the street corner? Or how I speak about my government officials?
Then there are things like drinking or chewing. I used to say that I didn’t have any biblical problems with drinking (Paul suggested a glass of wine with dinner, after all)—I just didn’t drink because I didn’t like the taste. But when I recently learned that one of my family members drinks an occasional beer… it suddenly just felt wrong.
But can I biblically say it’s wrong? How do I biblically decide yes or no? Do Jesus’ actions have any bearing on how I act?
Essentially, I think thus far my Christian walk has been an intellectual one. I study the Bible to see how Jesus feels about me, or to get a better spiritual understanding of the cross. But I’m beginning to wonder, does it have an impact on my daily actions? Yes, we should study the Bible; I definitely need a greater revelation of Jesus’ love for me. But am I making a conscious choice to apply that revelation to my actions?
My relationship with Jesus is changing my thoughts, but is it changing what I do? Am I keeping the intellectual learning at an arm’s distance? Changed thoughts should lead to changed actions—are they? I try to be joyful, inviting, and serve others—but that’s just a moral code. Am I acting more like Jesus, the Son of God? Am I being transformed into his image? Am I putting off the old man of sin and becoming a new creation?
Ha. Basically I’m asking myself, is my relationship with Jesus bearing fruit?
My current Bible study is in the gospel of Mark. The goal when I first started was to look at Jesus and ask four simple questions: what does he do, what does he say, what does this show me about him, and what does this show me about God the Father?
The unexpected side effect is I’m getting an understanding of Jesus as a real man. He felt dirt beneath his feet, he breathed oxygen, he talked with people, he slept and ate. I mostly ask questions as I read, but I feel like I’m connecting with the real man Jesus.
After the fish fry, I added a fifth question: how can I apply what Jesus did and said to my actions?
If he is a real man and if the way of the Lord, the way he desires me to live, is real, then there can be—there must be—real actions to apply to my life.